"As she stood looking at it, wondering why there was a lamp-post in the middle of a wood and wondering what to do next, she heard a pitter patter of feet coming toward her..." (C S Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Return to Rome?

All right. Here is my first question to throw around to everyone: "Why am I not Roman Catholic?" (of course, if you are, help us understand why you are and why we should be(?)) Sounds like an easy question, but not so easy. Let me ask a few penetrating questions to get us going. These are all questions I've heard in different forms...

Does Christ not have only one church?
Does Rome not have the only consistent historical connection to the early church?
Did not Rome determine the new Testament cannon of Scriptures?
Does not Rome have what so many evangelicals lack: mystery, awe, contemplation, etc.?
One more, does our theology go asunder so irreparably?

Consider these Evangelical favorites: J RR Tolkien, G K Chesterton, and Mother Theresa. Are they not a sterling model of Christian imagination, thinking and service?

Hope this gets some discussion going.

8 comments:

Professor D2 said...

If we're going to go with the historical argument, why go with Roman Catholicism? Why not Eastern Orthodoxy?

You asked, "Does Rome not have the only consistent historical connection to the early church?" I have to answer, "No. Eastern Orthodoxy does as well."

"Does not Rome have what so many evangelicals lack: myster, awe, contemplation, etc.?" Rome doesn't have a monopoly on this either; Eastern Orthodoxy claims the same things.

"Did not Rome determine the new Testament cannon of Scripture?"
Considering that of the 5 major Bishops of early Christianity, 1 of them went on to lead Catholicism while 4 went on to lead Eastern Orthodoxy, I'd have to again say Rome does not have the only, or even the best, claim on this either.

In short, most of what you've pointed out is better claimed by Eastern Orthodoxy than by Roman Catholicism. Perhaps the better title should be, "Go East young man?"

--Josh

Jim said...

Roman or East of Rome, Baptist, Protistant, blah blah blah. It is all a big lie. None of it means anything. some of those buildings hold bleievers and many of those believers would kill for a taste of Church. I know I would.

Professor D2 said...

Can you parse that for me?

Tom said...

Josh does have a good point. And I know I'm being simplistic, but many mainline protestant denominations offer the same awe mystery, and contemplation. We humans often think the grass is greener on the other side, and so it is no surprise to me that people 'switch' between RC and protestant. We see a deficiency in our own world, and see the benefits of the other, and so we move.

Here is one reason I am not a Catholic - They have added to the gospel by their tradition (Gal 1:6-9). Their understanding of the role of Mary, the eucharist, and works distorts the sufficiency of Christ's death. Yes, many protestants distort the gospel as well. But while the catholics say their tradition and the authority of the pope gives divine instruction to us, the reformers are "always reforming" - always going back to the standard, the Scriptures, just as the prophets were going back to the Law. So while the Catholics must rely on their church authority to substantiate their version of the gospel, reformers go back to the Scriptures themselves (and like Josh alluded to - the Scriptures were not established soley by the RC). Just like Paul said in Gal 1:8 - even the apostles hypothetically could get the gospel distorted. So why based our understanding on the apostolic succession rather than on the Scriptures that the vast majority of the church recognizes as given soley by God (2 Peter 1:20-21)?

OK, that should be enough to get me into trouble. Tom

Rick said...

Just to answer one facet of the question: the NT Scriptures. When the early church 'recognized' (important word I think) the canon of Scripture what were they doing? They were stating the Scripture to be the rule of faith for all the church, for all time (above tradition). If church tradition is equally authoritative to Scripture, why chose a canon? Why bother?

Let me try to use an analogy. A group of referees call a meeting to put together the rulebook of the game. They come to a unanimous decision of what the rules of the game are for all referees. But as they leave they say, "Of course however we call the game is equally as authoritative as the rule book." Huh? If that's the case what was the point of the rule book!

Alright, I know that analogy falls short in a a half dozen places. But the overall similarity works. If the council felt the church tradition will be equal to Scripture, why call a council to 'put together' a canon? Why put together a canon of Scripture, if what you or future generations of the church say is equivalent to the authority of the canon?

Unless of course they felt they were recognizing the Scriptures to be the very Words of living God authoritative for all the church for all time.

Anonymous said...

"When men do not receive the truth in love of it, but have pleasure in unrighteousness, God will send them strong delusion, to believe." "So II Thess. 2:10-11 is a discription how the Papacy came upon the world." "Men professed the truth of religion, but did not love it they loved unrighteousness and ungodliness; and God sent them Popery." ( John Owen, sermon on, "Perilous Times" 17th century). I think Paul told us what to do in Gal. 1:6-9.

chris said...

Good questions. To your first question, why RC and not EO, I loosely paraphrase Tom Howard in responding that it's pretty much a toss-up in many ways. If you're concerned with a church that traces its lineage back to the earliest church, both will get you there and theologically, they share a lot of the key points.

The big difference between the two is, of course, the continued acknowlegment of the Church's authority.

As to the question of why anyone should convert, I answer as a lifelong evangelical Christian who converted to the RC after a great deal of study and thought: DON'T, unless the Spirit of God draws you irresistibly. There is no doubt that the Spirit raised up and moves in the evangelical protestant tradition, and it's silly to insist that all Christians must be Catholic. I happen to believe that this is the truest version of our common faith, but I don't expect everyone else to agree with me (including my immediate family, my wife, and all my friends at the Baptist church I attend regularly).

A word of warning though, especially for a protestant preacher (Rick!): Think long and hard before exploring the intricacies of the RC faith... These are deeper waters than Max Lucado (!), and should the Spirit call you back to Rome, your life will be drastically altered for ever! :)

The canon and the early church's authority is one of the main issues that drew me into the RC faith: I don't think most scholars seriously dispute that at one time there were lots of disagreements over what was and was not "scripture," until the RC Church stated, unequivocally, once and for all: "These books are Scripture."

Of course, the question for any thoughtful Protestant, and one that I hear far less than I would expect, is "Why should we believe them?"

The Catholic position is that the RC church had the authority under the Holy Spirit to select the canon, and the fact that all Christians pretty much agree on what constitutes the Bible indicates that we all bow to that authority. To say that now the Church no longer has authority implies one of two things: Either a) at some point in time the Church's authority was severed, or b) the Church never acted under authority from the Holy Spirit, and the Bible has no legitimacy and we might as well decide for ourselves what books should be in it.

You can't base arguments against the RC Church's authority on the Bible, because acknowledging the validity of the Bible at all is an acknowledgment of the Church's authority to establish the Bible in the first place.

To take your analogy a little further Rick, pretend there are a lot of different versions of soccer out there, with lots of different rules. Finally MLS gets together and agrees on a set of standard rules that everyone will follow. Obviously this set of rules derives its validity from the authority of MLS. You can't go start a new league, let's call it the American Soccer League, and adopt the MLS rule book, and then turn around later and say the rule book is the standard and the MLS is off-base. If you aren't under the authority of the MLS, the rules have no power and you might as well write your own.

One of the turning points for me was the realization that, unless I believed that the Church has authority under guidance of the Holy Spirit, how could I rely on its determination that the canon is the Word of God? For me it became all or nothing.

Rick said...

Hey Chris, I was hoping you would post. You always seem to be reasonable, gentle, and practical when it comes to your Catholicism. Enjoyed your comments on 'open-mindedness' too.

The essential question seems to be: was the council's responsibility to establish the NT Scriptures or officially recongize the NT Scriptures? The difference is crucial. If they are establishing the NT Scriptures then I can see the argument of how the church would maintain authority. If instead they are merely recognizing Scripture, then there authority is very limited.

I'll try another analogy. Imagine a group of Van Gogh experts. They meet together and study a hundred or so so-called Van-Goghs. They recognize a dozen or so to be genuine Van Gogh artwork. They would have a sort of authority, but it would be highly limited. They cannot create new Van Goghs, nor can they have the final word in interpreting the meaning of them (that authority remains with the artist). What the museum or the people do with the portraits is outside their authority.

Again, lots of problems with the analogy. Yet the similarity exists in the 'recognition'. The council's authority rests on its ability to recognize the Word of God, not establish it or create it. If not, then why not write the Scriptures rather than select them? Ultimately the authority would be the same. Good discussion.